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Death Toll in Turkey and Syria Rises to More Than 11,000: Updates

Erdogan vows to rebuild.

Volunteers deliver water to local residents on February 8, 2023 in Elbistan, Turkey. (Photo by Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images) Photo: Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images
Volunteers deliver water to local residents on February 8, 2023 in Elbistan, Turkey. (Photo by Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images) Photo: Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images

Search-and-rescue operations are continuing in Turkey and Syria, where thousands of buildings were flattened by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in southern Turkey early Monday morning. Shocking images and video of the devastation continue to emerge, and there have been numerous powerful aftershocks, including one of 7.5 magnitude along a separate fault line in the same region Monday afternoon. The quakes have affected millions of people in the countries. The death toll has surpassed 11,000 as of Wednesday, a grim new high. Below is what we know so far, with updates appearing in reverse-chronological order.

Death toll surpasses 11,000.

The death toll in the massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has surpassed 11,000 people, according to the Associated Press, making it the deadliest earthquake since 2015 when a 7.8 quake in Nepal killed more than 8,800 people. Official tallies suggest the total is currently more than 11,700, with that number expected to rise.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, declared a three month state of emergency in 10 provinces in the region on Tuesday. Erdoğan and the Turkish government are facing criticism, with some saying the country wasn’t prepared enough and that rescue teams took too long to arrive and assist those in danger.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the opposition party, is placing blame for the tragedy squarely on the president’s shoulders.

“If there is one person responsible for this, it is Erdoğan,” he said, according to the BBC.

While visiting some of the hardest hit areas in Turkey, Erdoğan largely defended the government’s response. While he admitted there were some “shortcomings,” he said “dishonorable people” were behind the “lies and slander” against him and his administration, per the Associated Press.

“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” he said, according to the outlet. “We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.”

The president is also vowing to rebuild damaged regions within a year.

Twitter has been blocked on some networks inside Turkey according to NetBlocks, an internet watchdog group. The site has become a crucial part of reporting and information-sharing in the wake of natural disasters and other significant events. The group’s director told the New York Times that the action was likely taken by Turkey’s government, pointing to the coordinated nature of the outage.

More than 6,200 buildings have been destroyed in Turkey

Search and rescue efforts continued into Tuesday in Turkey and Syria, where widespread sub-freezing temperatures mean workers have even less time to locate and rescue survivors still trapped in the rubble.

Turkish authorities said early Tuesday that they had confirmed the deaths of more than 2,900 people across 10 provinces. More than five-times as many people have been confirmed injured, and thousands have been rescued. Syrian authorities have confirmed the deaths of more than 1,400 people, according to the AFP.

How to help the victims of the earthquakes

The Cut has published a guide here.

How significant was the close timing of Turkey’s two earthquakes?

Two extremely powerful earthquakes struck the same region of Turkey in less than 10 hours on Monday, the magnitude-7.8 quake early Monday morning along the East Anatolian Fault, and then the M7.5 quake Monday afternoon along a separate fault line, the Sürgü Fault, which branches off from the East Anatolian Fault.

Scientists are still analyzing the data from the events in Turkey, but experts who spoke with NBC News explained that even though the second quake was on a different fault line, it was technically still an aftershock:

Seismologists said the 7.5-magnitude shake that came after the initial quake qualified as an aftershock, not a separate earthquake, because it met aftershock classifications: It occurred within one fault line of the initial quake and was smaller in magnitude. What will happen next is hard to predict.

“Every earthquake sequence is different,” said Gary Patterson, a geologist at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis. “The vast majority of the time, you’ll see earthquakes decreasing in power over time relative to the mainshock, and it could last days, hours, months, even years.”

Seismologist Ross Stein, who runs the catastrophe modeling firm Temblor, explained in an interview with Scientific American that Turkey is uniquely prone to earthquakes because the country “is squeezed by a giant tectonic vise” thanks to its unlucky proximity to a triple junction of tectonic plates. Stein also noted that the last M7.8 earthquake in Turkey, along the North Anatolian Fault in 1939, “was the beginning of the most spectacular falling-domino sequence of earthquakes the world has ever known”:

That ruptured the North Anatolian Fault over 1,000 kilometers — almost from one end to the other — in a series of 12 very large earthquakes over 60 years. It’s a slo-mo car crash, where one earthquake is triggering the next and the next and the next. …

We made a calculation last night, which we sent out to our clients, where we showed that this earthquake should light up parts of the East Anatolian Fault, farther to the north and to the south. And we had a magnitude 7.5 early this morning [ET] in, basically, that blowtorch zone. So it was kind of similar to what we saw in the falling-domino sequence along the North Anatolian Fault — which means this may not be over. Earthquakes are in a kind of chain reaction; they converse by the transfer of stress. One earthquake might drop the stress on the section that ruptured, but it transfers it to other sections. Aftershocks tell us that story. Aftershocks don’t just occur where their rupture took place. They occur around it over fairly large distances.

Seismologist Lucy Jones, who explained in a tweet on Monday that aftershocks as big as the M7.5 earthquake are rare but possible, told NBC News that, for Turkey, “There’s going to be some increased risk of an earthquake. It’s pretty small. But it’s real.”

Emerging footage reveals more scope and scale of the destruction.

Here are just some of the many images and videos that have captured the devastation in Turkey and Syria:

Collapsed buildings in Hatay, Turkey. Photo: Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
An aerial view of a fire in overturned containers during the earthquakes in Hatay. Photo: Murat Sengul/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
People watch as rescue operations take place in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on Monday. Photo: Sertac Kayar/REUTERS
Aided by heavy equipment, residents search for victims and survivors amid the rubble of collapsed buildings in the village of Besnia, near the town of Harim, in Syria’s rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkey. Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images
People receive free meals in Diyarbakir. Photo: REFIK TEKIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A sheared-off apartment building in Adana. Photo: Oguz Yeter/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Sevgi Demirkan is rescued from the rubble of a collapsed hospital early Monday morning in Iskenderun, Turkey. Photo: Umit Bektas/REUTERS

Maps that visualize the quakes.

Many scientists have expressed shock over the size of the quake:

This animation gives a sense of how many aftershocks there have been in the region:

These maps shows how the initial 7.8-magnitude quake early Monday morning and the later 7.5-magnitude aftershock Monday afternoon were along separate fault lines:

And this map shows how seismic stations in Europe detected the energy from the first quake (another animation shows the energy detected in North America):

A 7.5-magnitude aftershock struck Turkey on Monday afternoon, flattening more buildings.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a powerful 7.5-magnitude aftershock occurred along a separate fault line around 1:30 p.m. local time Monday just north of the epicenter of the original earthquake.

The aftershock triggered the collapse of an unknown number of additional buildings throughout the region. Some of those terrifying scenes were captured on video by bystanders who just happened to be filming when it struck:

Monday’s earthquake in Buffalo wasn’t triggered by the Turkey event.

As scientists were quick to point out, the early-morning 3.8-magnitude quake in Western New York may have been a rare event, but it was coincidental and normal, geologically speaking:

Where did the original earthquake strike?

According to the USGS, the epicenter of the quake, which struck at 4:17 a.m. local time, was east of the small city of Nurdağı and west of the more heavily populated city of Gaziantep, which are near Turkey’s southern border with Syria. There have been more than 20 aftershocks, including one 11 minutes after the initial quake that registered a magnitude of 6.7.

Turkish authorities have estimated the main quake’s magnitude at 7.4.

Widespread damage across the region.

The full extent of the destruction is not yet clear, but Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the country’s search-and-rescue teams had been mobilized and that Turkey has already requested international help responding to the disaster. The U.S. was quickly among the countries offering assistance.

According to Turkish media reports and footage shared on social media, the earthquake flattened buildings — including apartment buildings — in numerous Turkish cities including Gaziantep, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, Adıyaman, and Şanlıurfa. Numerous smaller towns and villages in Turkey were also affected.

Authorities in central and northwest Syria, both in government and rebel-held territory, have reported extensive damage and hundreds of deaths from the quake.

The quake struck the provinces in Turkey that house many of the 3.6 million Syrian war refugees who now live in the country — as well as the rebel-held part of Syria where millions of other people displaced by the country’s long civil war reside and where infrastructure and health-care facilities remain limited.

The earthquake, which appears to have been the most powerful one recorded in Turkey since 1939, not only struck at the worst possible time — overnight, when residents were sleeping and less able to quickly respond to the tremor — but amid frigid temperatures in much of the affected area. The Associated Press reports that there have been traffic jams as people have attempted to flee quake-stricken areas in Turkey.

This post has been updated throughout.

Death Toll in Turkey and Syria Is Over 11,000: Updates